Ethnic Personalities Apparent Online

The American Internet population is diverse, and with each group comes its own habits and online identity. Marketers that recognize the variations among ethnic groups – which have been analyzed in a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project – are more likely to create successful strategies.

For instance, an email marketing campaign might be less effective with African-American Internet and English-speaking Hispanic users, since they are less likely to use email than their white counterparts. Pew’s 2002 surveys found that 39 percent of African-Americans and 39 percent of Hispanics used email on any given day, compared to 54 percent of white Internet users.

A communication contradiction occurred when Pew examined the trends in instant messaging and chat rooms, finding that black chat room usage exceeded that of whites while both groups equally engaged in IM. Hispanics were the chattiest of all with 40 percent participating in chat room discussions, compared to 35 percent of blacks and 22 percent of whites. Also, 64 percent of Hispanics said they used IM, while only 46 percent of whites and 46 percent of blacks did the same.

Fewer emails from African-American Internet users may be a result of Pew’s findings that the population has less online experience and is also the ethnic group that is least likely to go online. Pew found that among the three ethnic groups studied in this report, only 51 percent of African-Americans were online in August 2003, compared to 64 percent of whites and 62 percent of English-speaking Hispanics. Also, in a December 2002 survey, only 45 percent of black Internet users made an online purchase, while 63 percent of white and 58 percent of Hispanics engaged in e-commerce.

Black Internet users edged out the other groups in certain online behaviors, such as Internet searches, finding religious information online, and school work. Pew found that 85 percent of online blacks conducted searches to find specific answers, while 73 percent of Hispanics indicated the same.

Nearly half (47 percent) of African-American Internet users sought religious information compared to 24 percent of English-speaking Hispanic Internet users, and 28 percent of online whites.

Mary Madden, author of the report and principal research specialist for Pew Internet & American Life Project, says that it is difficult to speculate as to why the African-American online community leads the religious and spiritual information searching category, but the online trend seems to follow offline behavior.

Madden explains:”…in the case of religious information, there is a large body of academic research devoted to documenting the exceptional role religion and spirituality have played in the African-American tradition. Considering that, I’d say the online behavior of African-Americans (with respect to religious information-seeking) appears to be following a precedent that was set offline long ago.”

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the online African-American population and 56 percent of Hispanics used the Internet for research related to education and training, while only 51 percent of whites reportedly used the Web for this research. “The high number of African-American and Hispanic users who do research for school online might simply reflect the greater portion of students within these populations in our sample. With regard to research for work, African-American users have less experience online relative to whites and this may be part of the reason they report lower numbers (since this is an activity where experience clearly matters),” commented Madden.

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